Marianne Faithfull -‘Broken English.’ (Island)
Widely recognised by many as her greatest album -including the lady herself -this deluxe edition of Broken English reaffirms why it’s such a highly regarded album, as well as having a second disc of original mixes which actually genuinely illuminate the final album, rather than just feeling that they are tacked on.
If Faithfull had been known in the 60s for being the singer of ‘As Tears Go By,’ and Mick Jagger’s girlfriend, then by 1979, things had changed. She had spent time homeless, lost custody of her son and was still battling heroin addiction. Her voice is deeper, cracked and raw on this album, and yet utterly compelling. Faithfull is a woman who has seen a lot, but even when she’s bitter and angry, as she is for much of this album, in keeping with the punk and reggae influences of era that seep onto the record.
The title track oozes with cold war paranoia -and the second CD shows that it is scaled down from the original mix that was planned. Dedicated to Ulrike Meinhof, the co-founder of the Red Army Faction who’d died three years previously, the song was not an exoneration of Meinhof but a realisation, that there but for the grace of God went she. Her covers of Lennon’s ‘Working Class Hero’ and Dr. Hook’s ‘The Ballad of Lucy Jordan’ she makes her own.
The final track ‘Why’d Ya Do It’ remains one of the most angry songs ever committed to vinyl. (Do not read the rest of this review if you are offended by bad language). As rages at a lover go ‘Every time I see your dick I see her cunt in my bed’ things do not get much more outraged than that. (Astonishingly it was the Antipodeans who seemed most shocked.) Reportedly, the song had been intended for Tina Turner, but it’s no easier to imagine her singing it than it would be Cliff Richard.
1979 was, arguably one of music’s greatest ever years. And Broken English was up there with the best of them. Not just Faithfull’s masterpiece, a masterpiece full stop.
Broken English is re-issued by Island on January 28.